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Help With Choosing The Right Camera


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#1 Connor Crews

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 05:18 PM

I've been interested in film-making and writing my entire life, and recently me and my friend wrote a 27-page short film that we are planning to shoot this June/July.

We have the script, it's been revised, we have movie editing software chosen and we are planning on purchasing it soon (Final Cut Pro), we have half of the roles cast, while the other half we know who we want and they have pretty much agreed to be in it (we just aren't confirmed yet), we have all the sets chosen, the film is modern so we won't need to spend much on costumes, we have all the effects planned out and we have a lot of people volunteering for crew... but we need one last thing... a new camera.

We aren't planning on renting a camera, we want to buy one, mainly because we plan after this to shoot another short (that I'm currently in the process of writing) near the end of this year (probably around November).

Our budget is about $4,000. We know that most cameras we would buy around that price would probably please us, but we want to try to get the best one possible...

So... could we have some opinions and reccomendations, please?
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#2 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 02:42 AM

I've been interested in film-making and writing my entire life, and recently me and my friend wrote a 27-page short film that we are planning to shoot this June/July.

We have the script, it's been revised, we have movie editing software chosen and we are planning on purchasing it soon (Final Cut Pro), we have half of the roles cast, while the other half we know who we want and they have pretty much agreed to be in it (we just aren't confirmed yet), we have all the sets chosen, the film is modern so we won't need to spend much on costumes, we have all the effects planned out and we have a lot of people volunteering for crew... but we need one last thing... a new camera.

We aren't planning on renting a camera, we want to buy one, mainly because we plan after this to shoot another short (that I'm currently in the process of writing) near the end of this year (probably around November).

Our budget is about $4,000. We know that most cameras we would buy around that price would probably please us, but we want to try to get the best one possible...

So... could we have some opinions and reccomendations, please?


Standard Def, High Def, 8mm, 16mm, 35mm Film? :huh:
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#3 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 03:12 AM

DVX100 is a really great camera and the tool I used for years. It's rugged, light, easy to learn, good picture quality, easy workflow, affordable, works well with Final Cut Pro, and a great stepping-stone to learning filmmaking.
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#4 Walter Graff

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 09:22 AM

I have to agree with Chase, a DVX100 is a great camera. If cost is a consideration, any three chip camera or single chip CMOS camera will do for your first outting. Don't let the Jumblemouths (http://www.bluesky-web.com/jm.htm) spew all sorts of numbers at you. Filmmaking is an art not a calculator.

Edited by WALTER GRAFF, 08 April 2007 - 09:23 AM.

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#5 Connor Crews

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 09:29 AM

DVX100 is a really great camera and the tool I used for years. It's rugged, light, easy to learn, good picture quality, easy workflow, affordable, works well with Final Cut Pro, and a great stepping-stone to learning filmmaking.


Well I'm not really learning filmmaking (per-se), I've made a lot of home videos with two previous camcorders, a very very old camcorder that I can't remember what brand or model it is, and a DV camcorder from Sony. So I'm not really jumping in because I've made a lot of shorts already, even though they all sucked mainly because I was either young or I didn't have a script (which I have now learned: huge mistake.).

But here are the two cameras we are a looking at the most:

Sony HDV Camcorder: Sony HDR-FX7
HDV 1080I, Carl Zeiss 62mm lens, 20x opt. Zoom, 3.5" LCD

and

Canon HDV Camcorder: Canon XH-AIHD
Pro-camcorder Digic DVII
Processor 3CCD
(1400 x 1080) Resolution

Both are around $3,500.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 10:22 AM

If you want to shoot 24P HDV, I'd look at the new Sony HVR-V1U.

There is also the fairly cheap, though in tiny consumer-style, Canon HV20 that does 24P HDV. It would drive me nuts to use something that tiny and toy-like, but some would be fine with that.

If you can afford the Canon XLH1, a lot of people like it. But it's not cheap. It's in the same price range as the Panasonic HVX200 and some of the smaller JDC HDV camcorders.

But if you don't need to mess with HD issues, I'd stick to the DVX100B.
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#7 Walter Graff

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 12:13 PM

If you want to shoot 24P HDV, I'd look at the new Sony HVR-V1U.

There is also the fairly cheap, though in tiny consumer-style, Canon HV20 that does 24P HDV. It would drive me nuts to use something that tiny and toy-like, but some would be fine with that.

If you can afford the Canon XLH1, a lot of people like it. But it's not cheap. It's in the same price range as the Panasonic HVX200 and some of the smaller JDC HDV camcorders.

But if you don't need to mess with HD issues, I'd stick to the DVX100B.


First off we are all learning and always will be. :)

I think David said it best. If you think you need HD then between the two cameras you list, you'll find they both perform equally well. From a manufacturing standpoint any two cameras in the same price range perform equally as well with mostly ergonomics and subjective tastes being the deciding factor in what you like. If you gave me a project and asked which of the two you mention to use (as is), I'd toss a coin for the most part but probably go with the Sony as it is ergonomically easier to use in my opinion.

HD is not necessary unless you have a means to see it when its finished in some form of HD, and then you have to decide if you really gain anything with it. DVDs are not HD so you will gain little with HD in that case. If your world is standard definition (eg VHS distribution or DVD distribution) then HD will offer nothing so a DVX100B would be a great option. If you absolutely must have 16x9 then I'd look for a camera with a true 16x9 processor.

Don't be fooled my marketing hype. The 'right' camera is not the camera that adds up to the biggest numbers but the camera you feel best using and the camera that suits what you are doing.

Edited by WALTER GRAFF, 08 April 2007 - 12:16 PM.

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#8 Connor Crews

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 01:55 PM

If you want to shoot 24P HDV, I'd look at the new Sony HVR-V1U.

There is also the fairly cheap, though in tiny consumer-style, Canon HV20 that does 24P HDV. It would drive me nuts to use something that tiny and toy-like, but some would be fine with that.

If you can afford the Canon XLH1, a lot of people like it. But it's not cheap. It's in the same price range as the Panasonic HVX200 and some of the smaller JDC HDV camcorders.

But if you don't need to mess with HD issues, I'd stick to the DVX100B.


I looked at that Sony HVR-V1U, and really like it, especially the ability to be able to just drag files instead of having to digitize the film (which is always my least favorite part of making my videos). The only thing I could not find out was if it worked with Mac, but it says on the Sony website that it comes with USB so it probably would (and Sony isn't stupid enough to not have support for Mac also).
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#9 grahamstanly

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 09:30 PM

Ok i had the same budget when getting my camera, now everyones needs are different, but I for me the cannon Xh-A1 was the best buy. I was also able to get a nice case, and tripod with the extra money. and most importanly I love the camera its a tough and not easy to break, with a good built in mike, and it can produce some amazing images.

Good luck with the buyin process.
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#10 Walter Graff

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 10:04 PM

Ok i had the same budget when getting my camera, now everyones needs are different, but I for me the cannon Xh-A1 was the best buy. I was also able to get a nice case, and tripod with the extra money. and most importantly I love the camera its a tough and not easy to break, with a good built in mike, and it can produce some amazing images.

Good luck with the buying process.


You bring up an important part that a lot of first time buyers do not take into account. The camera is about 80-85% of your total cost in these low-budget camera system purchase situations. You have to budget for the accessories (and I haven't even considered anything but camera accessories). A tripod is necessarily (and you should look at a fluid head, not a still camera dragless $60 tripod). That can mean at least another $500. A camera case is real nice as it protects your camera and that's another $200 at least. A clear filter for the front element of the lens is a must, and tape stock while not a huge investment is necessary. And if you are talking about lighting, then you can add a minimum of $700 for some professional lights.

Edited by WALTER GRAFF, 08 April 2007 - 10:05 PM.

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#11 Troy Warr

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 12:11 AM

I looked at that Sony HVR-V1U, and really like it, especially the ability to be able to just drag files instead of having to digitize the film (which is always my least favorite part of making my videos). The only thing I could not find out was if it worked with Mac, but it says on the Sony website that it comes with USB so it probably would (and Sony isn't stupid enough to not have support for Mac also).

A more precise question would be if it works with Final Cut Pro (assuming that's the editing software you end up with). The HVR-V1U embeds its 24p into a 60i video stream to record to tape, so there's a little bit of trickery there as far as recording format goes. I'd be surprised if it's not already (or at least soon) supported - you might check the Final Cut Pro website for info on that.

The HVR-V1U looks pretty nice to me, too - I'm actually mulling over the idea of using it in conjunction with a Blackmagic Intensity card to bypass the in-camera HDV compression stage. Still, as others have mentioned, the Canon HX-A1 and the Panasonic AG-DVX100B (for SD) would be great options in that price range, as well.

One important consideration is: what's your preferred output format? If it's not HDTV or film, you might want to step down a notch from HDV cameras and look around for an SD camera.
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#12 Connor Crews

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:06 AM

I have one question about the DVX100B, any body who has used it, does it have a cinematic look to the film?

Oh, actualy two, does it work well in dim light situations?

The first short, the one I told you about is all normal outside, daytime light, but another one we are planning on, is going to be night time (even though we are going to set up lighitng, its still not going to be much.

The main things I want with my camera are: a cinematic feel (in all lights), decent battery life, able to work with Final Cut Pro and the less it is from $4000, the better.

Oh and to answer the question, we have a tripod that does have a free moving head, it's pretty reliable and I've been using it for a while now.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:11 AM

If you want a "cinematic" feel, you need to use lights when appropriate. Most of these DV cameras are in the 320-to-500 ASA range at 0 db, so you still need some lights in low-light conditions unless you can live with the noise from gain boosting, turning off the shutter, etc. Sorry, but often the cameras with the best low-light capabilities are not the ones with 24P option, which is an element in that "film look" you are seeking.
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#14 Michael Nash

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 01:58 AM

You won't be disappointed in the DVX-100B if you want a good SD prosumer camera. In that price range though it's hard not to also consider the Canon XH-A1; you're getting nearly the same image/processing as the XL-H1.

I've only tested the Canon and haven't shot any projects with it, so I haven't bumped it against its limitations yet. The DVX has the major advantage that it's SO well supported in the industry that any issues are well documented and solutions or workarounds are easy to find. http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/
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#15 Walter Graff

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 08:59 AM

I have one question about the DVX100B, any body who has used it, does it have a cinematic look to the film?

Oh, actualy two, does it work well in dim light situations?

The first short, the one I told you about is all normal outside, daytime light, but another one we are planning on, is going to be night time (even though we are going to set up lighitng, its still not going to be much.

The main things I want with my camera are: a cinematic feel (in all lights), decent battery life, able to work with Final Cut Pro and the less it is from $4000, the better.

Oh and to answer the question, we have a tripod that does have a free moving head, it's pretty reliable and I've been using it for a while now.


With a few batteries the DVX is a work horse. It does work well in lower light conditions. As for cinematic feel, the DVX does a 24p look which is the gimmick that allows video cameras to make pictures that have the blur 'look' of film. After that how you light does the rest.
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#16 Hans Kellner

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 01:11 PM

I have one question about the DVX100B, any body who has used it, does it have a cinematic look to the film?

Oh, actualy two, does it work well in dim light situations?


I have a DVX100A and have found it to be a great camera. I've used it for several shorts and it has always come through for me.

I have also used the Redrock M2 with it for more of a "film look". But I'm starting to realize that the amount of additional effort/cost that these Mini35 devices add doesn't really benefit the final result. Sure you may get a nice looking image. That is important. But, I've come to believe that the story and acting are the primary concerns. If those are nailed then spending additional for a "cinematic look" is nice. But no matter how nice your image is, if the audience isn't engaged in your story, what will the look matter?
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